ANIL MITRA © 2001, 2009, 2015

Link to a newer version of the fundamental problem

(The present version is maintained for personal historical interest.)

Link to the original version of this article



History of the Article  1

History of the Fundamental Problem   2

A Trivial Resolution of the Problem of Why there is Being  2

Is there a Fundamental Problem of Metaphysics?  3

The Fundamental Problem of Metaphysics  3


History of the Article

The problem of ‘why there is something rather than nothing’ has been called the fundamental problem of metaphysics

This piece was first written in 2001—before development of the Universal Metaphysics of Journey in being (2010)

Before the Universal Metaphysics my attempts at resolution were limited to relative resolutions, e.g. given that there is something I attempted to explain why there must also be sentience. Even this explanation was not satisfactory

The early effort may be found at Original—2001—version of this article

The Universal Metaphysics enabled the absolute resolution below. The first version of this resolution appeared in 2009

The metaphysics has matured further since 2009 (presently Journey in being remains a basic source) and the 2009 version has been deleted

This maturation has enabled the present improvement of the article. The improvements include clearer and improved explanations of (1) Why original versions of the fundamental problem deserved to be called fundamental (2) The difficulty of the original versions (3) Why the metaphysics of  removes that difficulty and therefore makes resolution of the original fundamental problem trivial (4) Why there must be sentient Being (this explanation is brief) (5) The source and fundamental character of the ‘new’ fundamental problem

History of the Fundamental Problem

There are two kinds of foundation to metaphysics (1) Non-relative or based in a substance or axiomatic system and (2) Relative in which no foundation is final but must be referred to another level

The attractions of a non-relative foundation are those of security and—perhaps—of simplicity. However while substances (and axiomatic systems) may appear to be transparent they do not provide absolute security. In science we may accept matter as the foundation of all things. However, this question of material versus other foundation (or absence of any final foundation) is an essential problem and concern

Therefore a relative foundation may be thought more attractive—it is (or may be) preferable to be transparent about the unresolved nature of the foundation. Perhaps we can have practical consensus on foundation (the effective position of some materialist philosophers). Perhaps we should recognize the that there is no foundation (however we do not know this). Perhaps there is some way in which infinite regress can be foundational (with what remains unfounded getting smaller at each stage and perhaps even converging to zero)

A metaphysical system might begin with the proposition that there is Being. This might be founded in the fact that there is experience (an example of which is the fact that we are at least having an illusion that there is a proposition). We might perhaps show that (the fact of) experience is beyond question (Journey in being shows this)

However that there is Being does not explain the source of Being. The question of why there is Being remains open and seems to be a problem without possibility of resolution. We might argue that if there is Being there is either an infinite chain or a causeless cause. We might change the terms of the problem and ask why there is sentient Being. Still the question of Being remains open (and the question of sentient Being may be an additional problem)

Heidegger called the problem of why there is Being the fundamental problem of metaphysics

There is a literature devoted to this problem but no apparent resolution in the standard literature. And it seems that unless we accept non-standard notions of demonstration there can be no proof that there must be Being

A Trivial Resolution of the Problem of Why there is Being

The Principle of Being of the Universal Metaphysics is the assertion that the object of Logic is the Universe in all its detail (the Logos)

In other words there will be times at which there is no manifest Being and times at which there will be manifest Being

In other words it is not necessary that there will be Being at all times. However there will and must be Being at some times and the times when the question of Being may be asked will be times of manifest Being

The problem of why there is sentient Being is simultaneously resolved

Is there a Fundamental Problem of Metaphysics?

For secure understanding of the resolution it is essential to understand the Universal Metaphysics—especially its foundation and the demonstration of the Principle of Being

An essential element of the foundation and the demonstrations concerns the conception of Being. It is not thought that there is one thing or kind of thing in the Universe that deserves the label of ‘Being’. Different writers have different notions? Are they all referring to the same thing or kind of thing? Some writers refer to what they see as most general or basic and others refer to what is most essential or deep. Thus they are not referring to the same thing even when they use the same sign ‘Being’. What justifies the use of the same sign is that they are all trying to find what (if any thing or concept) is most fundamental

How then can anyone assert of their notion that that is the true notion of Being? Perhaps such an assertion cannot be validly made

There is however an approach to the evaluation of the variety of notions of Being. The most effective concept of Being is the one that enables the most effective metaphysics. In Journey in being the Universal Metaphysics is shown to be unique, true, and ultimate. It is ultimate with regard to depth—it provides a non-relative foundation that is not based in hypothetical elements. It is ultimate with regard to breadth—it implicitly captures the variety of Being in the Universe (and shows that any prescription or experience—finite or infinite—of this variety must be incomplete)

The concept of Being of the Universal Metaphysics is simply that which is been there (or will or has been there). This conception has been employed by other writers, e.g. Spinoza (Heidegger uses it too but is not transparent in suggesting that this notion is not the essence of the notion). What is effective about the present use is the insistence on and the systematic use of the neutrality of Being. Being is what it is defined to be and there is no mystery about the idea. It is not suggested that there are no mysteries but rather that all mysteries are implicit in Being

Therefore the only path to improving the concept of Being of the Universal Metaphysics is detailed working out of its ‘extension’ i.e. the variety of kinds and things to which it refers. Under this there the objects that we know of ideally—the ideal of the metaphysics is fully empirical—via the Logos. Additionally there are the objects that we know of by direct empirical means. These are the common objects of our lives regarding which even though immediate practical questions may be closed, scientific and metaphysical analysis may improve our understanding

We conclude therefore that a worthy successor to the earlier fundamental problem and perhaps the essential problem of metaphysics and our being is the question

The Fundamental Problem of Metaphysics

What has Being?

It is worth noting that the problem is not merely one of looking and discovery. It is a dual problem of conception and matching concepts to things and kinds. It is a dual problem of conception and discovery (and in Journey in being it is shown that discovery will require more than search by given organisms: the organisms will have to undergo transformation)